Horse training from mental wisdom
Years ago I used to believe that training and being with horses was simple. Then I stopped thinking that and the reason why I stopped thinking it was easy was due to the fact that I realised how difficult it is to be in the present moment. It is not because it is challenging to be with horses from nature, but when you have grown into forgetting what your body sounds like when it talks and what your bodily sensations mean, then it can be terribly difficult. When you have gone so much into your head that you have forgotten all about what remains beneath your neck. That is when it becomes a challenge. I started my own journey into making this an easy thing once again and on my way I found a number of important abilities that are of essential value in our relationship with our soulful horses. Below I have decided to share with you some of them as well as why I find them to be key stones in our togetherness with the horses.
- You need to be honest
Honesty is important in a lot of aspects of life and horse training is not an exception. One might wonder why honesty is important with horses as they usually won’t be offended if you tell them that you got a nice grade at school while you actually failed. No – I am not talking about little white lies. The kind of honesty I talk about in relation to horses as actually being honest to your horse in such a way that you are honest to yourself most of all. Whenever you are not honest about how you feel you will appear unpredictable to your horse. He will see with his eyes one thing and sense with his sensitive perception something else which will make him unsure of your presence. Always being honest to your horse will make him more confident in your company because what he sees and senses are the same thing and that calms him because he is then able to read you. This is also the reason why horses can be amazing guides in therapy because they respond to the discrepancy between what they see and what they sense. Some horses actually become rather unpredictable from this, but as soon as the student acknowledge to themselves (either loudly or just inside) how they feel, the horses will become relaxed. Why so? Because now they will see and sense the same thing and that makes them able to understand what is going on and what you are up to.
- You need to be determined, but yet adaptable
There is nothing bad about being determined around your horse neither to make a plan before you go to the stable or catch your horse in the pasture. Actually it will at many times give you some kind of relief and peacefulness to arrive with a plan or an idea on what you would like to do on the specific day. That said it is at least as important to be able to adapt and change those plans if needed. Yet it often seems to me that people do either one or the other. The determined ones completes the plan they made no matter the circumstances and the ones “too adaptable” never really knows what to do and ends up doing nothing. You should always seek to find peace somewhere in between. If you go to your horse and has planned already before arriving to go on a 3 hour ride with him you should be able to quit the plan if you can see that he is completely exhausted from training the previous day. Being determined about something you wish to do will help your horse to find calmness because you are clarified and adaptability will help him trust that you listen to him every day and do not push him through something he can’t manage on the given day.
- You need to be kind and patient
I guess this is almost self-said whenever we work with other living beings no matter if it is human beings, dogs or horses. Being with your horse is being with a friend. Your horse is someone you should care about and care for. Someone to whom you should listen and someone you should try to understand and guide. Being with and working with horses can be a huge mental challenge and test because all our weaknesses and dark sides becomes visible. Watching a person work with a horse tells just as much about them as a person as it does about the horse if not even more. One of the common triggers is loss of control. Imagine this episode…
You are one a ride in the forest when the path you are on suddenly splits into two. You decide from a distance to go to the right, but when you get closer your horse starts to go to the left. You now have three opportunities:
- Punish your horse for being disobedient and make him go right
- Take notice of the idea your horse shares, but tell him that you need to go right today.
Maybe next time you can go to the left instead.
- Drop all responsibility and allow your horse to choose the direction and go left instead of right.
Which one do you choose and what does it tell about you?
No.1 If you choose opportunity number 1 it tells me that you are depending upon being the leader who is in complete control. I would say that you most likely are afraid of sharing your control because you fear that if you do so you will loose it completely, be tricked by the one you share it with or stepped on as a result. Also I would say that you might not act this way because you are strong, but actually because you are trying to hide your weakness behind a tough facade.
No. 2 If you choose opportunity number 2 it tells me that you have great empathy and dare to listen to the suggestions and ideas from others. I would say that you have great confidence or grounding in yourself and you are not afraid to hear the opinion of others. Just as you did when your horse made a suggestion. The fact that you still choose the route does not make you dominant or a leader because of the way it is done and due to the way you handled the idea from your horse. You handled it with understanding and acknowledged a second voice that allowed the monolog to become a dialog.
No. 3 If you choose opportunity number 3 there are two different possibilities. Either you match the same description as stated above as you make a decision to allow your horse the choice this time. Then maybe you will chose next time. It could however also be that you are afraid of making decisions or lead anyone else. That you do not trust yourself enough to say “thank you, but not right now”. I would think that this is a general thing in your life as you most likely have other situations in your life where you do not dare to take action, stand up for yourself or say your honest opinion.
Obviously what is stated above is just my personal experience, but still it tells something about how much of ourselves we expose when we are with our horses. If we dare to see our own patterns (or allow someone to help us do it) it can be the greatest gift as we will then manage to discover and work with our own weaknesses or soft spots.
What is written above is very black and white, but the idea is just to make it really clear that our way of being with horses tells us a lot about ourselves. The essence of what I have written is that we gain so much more from our relationship with our horses if we take our time and allow them to help us become better human beings. If we allow ourselves to step back and observe our own responses it can help us move miles forward in our own way of meeting people, horses and the world in general.
- You need to be trusting and confident
Being all on your own with your thoughts, ideas and voices in your head sometimes makes me forget how much horse training is actually about connecting to what you have got within yourself and how important it is to be aware of yourself in the company of horses. In our ever ongoing attempts of achieving impressive results and our performance oriented society, it can be a huge challenge not to become caught up in thoughts and expectations for yourself or your horse. This is the exact moment when it is of biggest importance to be able to find confidence and grounding within yourself. Not to mention how big a role it plays to be able to find trust in your horse on your journey as well. Trust is not an easy ability to acquire and it can be even harder when you are about to give it to an animal 5 or 10 times your size. Yet what I have experienced in each and every of my meeting with horses and their humans are that the more people have been trusting their horses, the more trustful and careful the horses have been. Trust comes straight back at you when you find the courage to share it with your horse. If you on the other hand always doubt his intentions or do not believe that he wants what is best for both of you, how valued do you think he must feel? Just imagine being in that situation yourself.
Now that we are talking about trust and confidence… Do you even allow yourself this trust that I am just now asking you to provide your horse? Do you trust that what you engage in will succeed or that you can manage things you have never tried before? Trusting yourself is the first step in sharing trust with others. Take a moment to consider and be honest to yourself. Do you trust yourself?
What I love most about this way of approaching and training horses is that either one of the mentioned points I have wrote about are exceptional to master in all aspects of life. If you are already doing great in every single of these aspects being with horses will be an easy job for you, but if you still have something you need to practice, being with horses will help you get there!